#1) BIG thanks to H.T.Marie for posting the work-around to document manager upload not working.
#2) I am trying to respond to all the requests I've had lately. There are a number of Sammie Rae fans out there, and this story is about her first time in public school. I am also working on a new Problems With Dean, turning Light & Dark into a multi-chapter fic, and a brand new story (which I'll also try to post today) which is being done in collaboration with hotshow.
#3) Amy, thanks for previewing chapter 1 and letting me know it's something you want to read!
Sammie Rae: School Daze"Parent-Teacher conference?" Dean stared down at the note in his hand in disbelief. "But it's only the second week of school! I usually managed to go a month before any of my teachers called one of these."
Sam choked on his juice, trying hard not to smirk.
"And what's this part about the whole family being required?" Dean raised an eyebrow at that. "I've never heard of that."
"What?" Sam held out his hand for the note. "You're kidding."
Throughout this exchange, Rae sat quietly at the kitchen table staring at a plate of cookies. She turned thirteen on her last birthday and this year was her first foray into the public school system. Dean had been all for continuing the home schooling and letting her take the GED, until Sam pointed out that Rae had no social skills which meant she was useless at interviews. That clinched the deal. Then Rae stopped speaking to him a couple of days ago.
Sam skimmed the note. "This kind of sounds like your teacher thinks something is wrong with your homelife, Rae." He looked hopefully at her. He hated the silent treatment, and she was much better at it than Dean.
Rae glared at him, crossing her arms over her chest and pushing the cookies away. It was obvious from the fact they were her favorite that it was a bribe. Sam sighed, looking to Dean for help.
"Dude, this is between you two." Dean stood. "Apparently I have to get ready for a conference. Tonight." Dean waved a hand between them. "You need to talk."
Sam stared down at the table, wondering where to start. He was pretty sure he did something to make her mad, but over the past year Rae had changed from a sweet niece into a pod person commonly referred to as a teenager. In short, Sam had no clue what he did.
"Hey!" He jumped at the sound of Dean's fist slamming down on the table. The plate with the cookies jumped and rattled, spraying crumbs onto the table. "I said you two need to talk, damn it. I don't know what the hell is going on, but I want it to stop. Now." Sam watched his brother head out of the room. He paused in the doorway. "Sam? I know I said we should wait a couple of months before you picked up Rae's lessons in legends and Latin, but I think maybe you should start on Monday."
Sam sat in stunned silence as Dean disappeared down the hall. First, he could not remember Dean ever acting that way, except maybe the few times he watched his brother stand up to their Dad. Second, it had been Sam's idea to hold off on their personalized version of Rae's education for a couple of months, not Dean's. He had argued that she needed time to adjust to going to school.
"Uncle Sam?" Rae asked tentatively.
"Yeah?" He forced his head to turn from where Dean stood a moment ago so he could look at her.
"You do want to teach me?" She asked. "You don't think I'm stupid?"
He felt like someone just sucker punched him in the stomach. "You're not stupid!" How could she possibly think something like that? Where did she get such an idea? Really! The kid was capable of absorbing so much, and what's more, not just memorizing but understanding what she was learning. That was rare, that was true learning.
A hand waved in front of his face. "Earth to Uncle Sam. Come in, Uncle Sam."
Sam shook himself, embarrassed. "What?"
Rae handed him a cookie. "Here, I can't eat all of these." She grinned at him. "Dad's right, you know.
"Doubt it," he replied automatically, taking a bite out of his cookie. "About what?"
"The way you react when you're really surprised." She chuckled. "I mean, your mouth was flopping open and closed." She grinned for a moment before the smile dropped from her face. "But I want to know the real reason you want me to go to school. I heard you tell Dad that it wasn't because you thought I'd get a better education."
Sam sighed. So that was what started the silent treatment. He and Dean had that 'discussion' a couple of nights ago. He made a mental note to hold all such future 'discussions' either before Rae got home or out at a bar. "If you had bothered to eavesdrop a little longer, young lady, you might have heard that I wanted you to have a normal life. Something Dean and I were never allowed."She stared at him for a moment. "What if I don't want a normal life?"
Sam groaned. "You sound just like Dean."
She grinned. "Thanks.""That wasn't a compliment," Sam corrected. "You need friends, Rae. Kids your own age to talk to, to complain to about your parents, school, homework. It'll be good for you, Sunshine." Sam leaned over. "You really need to start talking to people other than me and your dad."
"I do!" She insisted, reaching for another cookie. "I talked to that waitress just the other night."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Ordering your own dinner doesn't count anymore."
"It should," she mumbled.
"Rae, people aren't going to bite you. They aren't dangerous." Sam snagged another cookie.
Rae looked at him as if he just sprouted another head. "You're kidding, right?" She nodded towards the bedrooms. "Have you met Dad?"
"Okay, fine. Most people aren't dangerous. Especially in school." Sam amended.
"Columbine," Rae pointed out, grabbing the last cookie.
Sam ran a hand over his head. "We should limit your television viewing."
"Ha! Like that's going to happen," she snickered. "But you know, if I were allowed to take my gun with me, I'm pretty sure that would never happen at my school."
"Forget it," Dean said as he strode back into the room. "How do I look?" he asked.
Sam cast a quick look at his brother. "Like an insurance adjuster." Dean was wearing the black suit with black tie. "Go change," he waved his brother away.
"Into what?" Dean demanded.
"Wear the shirt and tie with your jeans, Dad. That will look more natural," Rae suggested.
"Forget the tie," Sam suggested. "You always look like you're choking when you wear a tie."
"Fine," Dean sighed, leaving the room. When he came back in jeans and the dress shirt, he looked between them. "So, are you two good now?"
Sam and Rae nodded. "Yeah, we're good."
"How about me?" He asked, turning around.
"You always look good Dad," Rae said, jumping up to give him a peck on the cheek.
"I knew I kept you around for a reason," Dean grinned down at her. "Okay, we better go. Don't want to be late for my first teacher chewing out session."
Miss Grimmault sat at her desk, watching the wall clock. The Cooper family should have been here five minutes ago. With a snarl, she began to stack her papers. She really wanted to meet this family before calling child services. It was obvious Sammie Cooper was a neglected child, and probably emotionally abused if not physically, but she liked to check out the parents before reporting it. That usually confirmed it for her.
The sound of conversation in the hall drew her attention. Well, maybe the Coopers were just late. That was not exactly a point in their favor, however, but at least they showed up.
"Oh, come on, Rae. You can't be serious," a man's voice echoed in the empty hall. "Do you really think a werewolf could take a zombie?"
"Only while it's a werewolf," a girl's voice answered as the door opened. Miss Grimmault had to look up to see the girl was her student. She never heard Sammie Cooper speak before. Two men accompanied her. Both were tall, but one was much taller than the other. The tall one had one of those stylish, shaggy haircuts that she disapproved of. The other one had a sensible short hairstyle. But where was the mother?
"Miss Grimmault?" The one with short hair approached her. "Nice to meet you, I'm Rae's Dad, Dean Cooper. What's this all about?"
She shook his hand, watching them with her keen eyes. "I have some concerns about your daughter," she informed him. She wondered if he knew just how close to a state investigation he was.
"Where do you sit, Sunshine?" the tall one asked Sammie. She led him to a chair in the back. He shook his head. "You should try to sit up front. It's easier to pay attention that way."
"Dad said he always sat in back," she argued. Again, Miss Grimmault checked to be certain it was her student who spoke.
"Excuse me?" The father stared at her. "What concerns?"
"Oh," she pulled her attention away from the other two. "Have a seat," she motioned to the student desk opposite her. He scowled at it before sitting on the desk part. The taller man noticed and tried to sit in the next chair, but he just did not fit. He copied the father's technique. Sammie sat in a chair behind the two men.
"May I ask where Sammie's mother is?" she demanded. The conference form requested that the entire family be present. She did not approve of substitute family members.
The father jerked his head at the taller man. "Right there."
The taller man blushed. He leaned forward to shake her hand as well. "I'm her Uncle Sam."
"So you two are…"
"Brothers," they answered together.
The look on the father's face was pure annoyance. "What concerns?" he demanded.
"First off, Sammie does not participate in any class discussions. Class participation is twenty percent of her grade." Miss Grimmault felt entirely justified in her policy; it helped weed out the students who cheated on their homework.
"That may be because we've always homeschooled her," Uncle Sam explained. "This is her first time in a regular classroom. I'm sure if you give her a little time, she'll start to participate more." He shot her a look which had Sammie squirming in her seat.
"I take it there's more?" The father asked, arms crossed over his chest. He did not seem like one to be put off. She had met his type before.
Miss Grimmault pulled out one of Sammie's in-class papers. "As a warm-up exercise, to gauge my students' abilities, I give the same assignment at the beginning of every year. I ask my students to write a paper, one page minimum, about their hero. Here is what your daughter wrote. I think you'll agree that it is rather, um, disturbing."
She handed the paper over to the father. He took it with a guarded expression. She watched his reaction carefully as he read. "Sam, you and Rae go wait out in the hall."
Uncle Sam leaned over his brother's shoulder. She noticed his eyes widen before he turned to Sammie. "Come on, Sunshine." He motioned to her.
Sammie jumped out of her seat, casting a doubtful look at her father who was still reading, before muttering "Yes, sir." They left the classroom.
Miss Grimmault waited for the father to say something else. He flipped to the second page and kept reading. When he was done he folded his daughter's paper in half and leveled his eyes on her.
"Which part did you find disturbing?" He asked, his face hard. "How graphic it was, or the fact it was the truth?"
His reaction startled her, to say the least. "Excuse me? Are you trying to tell me that this ridiculous nonsense is true?"
"Miss," he consulted the conference paper in his pocket, "Grimmault, if this had been a homework assignment, I can guarantee you that paper never would have left the house. I would have insisted Rae choose to write about someone else as her hero. But I must admit, this surprised me." He looked down at the paper clutched in his hand. "She hasn't talked about what happened in years. I guess I thought she forgot." He shook his head, looking up at her again. "Maybe I hoped she forgot. I should have known better."
The sadness in his face was the first convincing thing she had seen so far. "According to her paper, both her parents were eaten by the bear."
"Mauled to death first," he said with a nod. "But yes, eaten. Right in front of her." His eyes had a distant look to them. He shook it off, the hardness returning to his countenance. "And?"
"And you saved her? You were hunting the bear?" She pressed, unable to believe any of the child's paper. She had assumed it was the fanciful tale of a child who needed attention. The idea any of it could be true never crossed her mind.
He nodded, not breaking eye contact. "I found her in the cave. Next to what was left of her parents."
"The part about burning the bear?"
He shrugged. "It's dead. That's all that matters."
"And you adopted her?"
He cleared his throat. "That's pretty much the way it happened." He held up the paper.
She shook her head, leaning back in her chair. "Now I'm embarrassed. Between that paper and the way your daughter acts in class, I thought she was the victim of neglect. I was ready to call child services."
She watched as his eyes hardened on her. "I'm glad her teachers are so concerned." Before she could say anything else, he continued. "She didn't speak for quite a while afterwards. Then, for years, the only people she would talk to were me and my brother." He stared at her. She wondered if she was expected to speak now. "So I'm not really surprised that Rae doesn't participate in class. Hell, I didn't and I never experienced half what she did."
There was an edge to his voice. "You didn't experience half what she did? What does that mean?"
He stood, folding Sammie's paper in half again and sliding it into his pocket. "It means she's in the right family." His answer was cryptic, to say the least. "Oh, you don't mind if I keep this, do you?" He leaned close to whisper, "I have a box I keep stuff like this in."
Miss Grimmault stared at him for a long moment. "May I ask you a question about Sammie's homelife?"
"It's Sammie Rae, and we call her Rae." He pointed to her notebook. "You might want to write that down."
"I take it she's named after her uncle?"
He shrugged, glancing swiftly to the closed door.
"How often is she alone in the afternoons?"
"She's not," he replied. "My brother and I set up our work schedules around school hours. I drop her off and he picks her up." His head tilted to one side. "Still calling child services?"
She cleared her throat. "Uh, no. Not at this time. But I will be keeping an eye on her."
"I'm glad her teachers are so concerned," he repeated. "Anything else?" He moved swiftly to the door. Mr. Cooper motioned for her to keep talking.
"Well, I would like to know what that conversation you three were having when you came in was about."
She watched as he jerked open the door to her classroom. Uncle Sam and Sammie stood side by side, nearly falling through the doorway.
"Well?" he demanded of his family.
"Oh, uh, we were talking about…" Uncle Sam's voice trailed off.
"Werewolves versus zombies, right?" Mr. Cooper asked Sammie.
"Yes, sir. And I still think a werewolf would win." She said defiantly.
Mr. Cooper shook his head. "But zombies are already dead. How could a werewolf kill it? Plus the zombie, even dead, is smarter than a werewolf."
"Your dad has a good point," Uncle Sam pointed out.
"Werewolves are bad-ass," Sammie insisted. "It could kick some dead guy's ass."
"You'd be surprised how fast that dead guy can run," Uncle Sam said, before his eyes drifted over to see Miss Grimmault watching them. "Uh, hypothetically, of course."
"Of course," she said with a nod. She would not be tossing her file on Sammie Cooper just yet.
Sammie rolled her eyes. "Are we done yet, Dad?" she whispered.
Mr. Cooper looked back at her. "Are we done yet?"
Miss Grimmaul nodded. "Pretty much. But Coach Green asked me to pass on a message."
The father's eyebrow climbed again. "Yes?"
"He'd like Sammie to try out for the track team. Apparently she was very impressive in gym class this week." She relayed the message, once again regretting that Coach Green was so good looking. Waste of a perfectly good man. She was certain his boyfriend would disagree.
"That's a great idea!" Uncle Sam looked pleased.
"We'll talk about at dinner," Sammie's father replied, frowning. He looked down at her. "And you're ordering, for all of us."
Sammie sighed. "Yes, sir." She sounded disappointed, but Miss Grimmault saw the girl's arm wind around her father's waist. She also noticed him drape an arm over Sammie's shoulders as they walked out. The werewolf versus zombie argument started up again when the Coopers thought they were out of earshot. Miss Grimmault shook her head, the number of parents who did not understand how far sound really carried in school hallways was amazing. She added a few lines to her notes on Sammie Cooper before putting that file away. It was a good thing that girl had someone to keep an eye out for her, considering that strange family. She was not willing to call child services yet. Not just yet.